roasted garlic pasta salad

$8.53 recipe / $1.06 serving

This pasta salad is super easy to throw together and is surprisingly filling! I was also really happy with how creamy and delicious it was, despite the fact that I used part-skim ricotta. It looks and tastes like a really creamy, guilt-inducing pasta salad, when really it’s quite innocent!

Half of the reason that I wanted to make this pasta salad is that I wanted to try out a technique that I’ve been seeing around the internet: roasting garlic in the microwave. I ruined one head of garlic in the process, but I think I got it right after that. The end result isn’t as caramelized as real, oven roasted garlic, but the flavor is definitely good enough to make this technique worth it when you’re in a hurry. Roasting garlic in an oven can take almost an hour and this only takes 2 minutes – literally!

There are a few different techniques that I’ve seen, some microwaving for a minute or so, and some for up to 8 minutes (with water added), but I found 2 minutes with no water to be just right for me. I’m sure every microwave is different and each head of garlic will require a slightly different amount of time to cook, so I suggest microwaving in small, one minute increments until you get the technique just right. You want the garlic to be soft, and very fragrant, not brown and hard. Microwaving past the point of softness will only lead you down the road to burnville, and believe me, it doesn’t taste or smell pretty!

Oh, one more thing. If you have access to inexpensive fresh basil, it would be to-die-for in this recipe. Just add it on in with the spinach or even in place of the spinach!

Roasted Garlic Pasta

roasted garlic pasta salad

3.9 from 10 reviews
roasted garlic pasta salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $8.53
Cost Per Serving: $1.06
Serves: 8
  • 1 head garlic $0.59
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil $0.09
  • 1 lb. pasta shells $1.29
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese $2.45
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan $0.23
  • to taste salt & pepper $0.05
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes $2.50
  • 3 cups baby spinach $1.33
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut approximately ½ inch off the top of the head of garlic. Place the garlic bulb in a small bowl or dish and drizzle ½ tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Cover the bowl with an inverted plate. Microwave on high, in one minute increments, until the garlic is soft and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Use caution when touching the dishes, they will be very hot. Allow the garlic to cool.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and mince well. Add the minced garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta cheese, a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper, and about ½ tsp of salt. Add the ½ cup of hot, starchy pasta cooking water. Stir until it forms a smooth sauce.
  4. Drain the pasta. Return the drained pasta to the warm pot (the burner should be turned off). Add the fresh baby spinach and pour the ricotta sauce over top. Slice the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pot as well. Stir until everything is well mixed. Add in the parmesan cheese and stir again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm!

roasted garlic pasta salad

Step By Step Photos

cut top off of garlicTo cook the garlic in the microwave, begin by cutting a little off the top of the head to expose the cloves.

drizzle garlic with oilPlace the head of garlic in a small dish or bowl and drizzle about a half tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. This will help keep them from burning.

lidPlace an inverted plate over top of your bowl or dish. Microwave on high, in one minute increments, until the garlic is soft and very fragrant. Mine took two minutes and after that it began to burn (even when I added water to the dish). The garlic will hiss and pop during cooking, and some of the cloves may jump out of the head!

roasted garlicWhen it’s finished, it will be soft, kind of mushy, and it will smell really REALLY good. The cloves will be about the same color as they were fresh, but they will look slightly transparant. Allow the garlic to cool.

minced garlicOnce it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head and mince them. They’ll likely be pretty sticky.

cook pastaBring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta shells according to the package directions (boil 7-10 minutes). When the water gets cloudy and starchy (like in the picture), dip in a measuring cup and reserve a half cup of it for the sauce.

ricottaWhile the pasta is cooking, place the minced garlic, ricotta cheese, freshly cracked pepper, and about a 1/2 tsp of salt in a bowl.

ricotta sauceAdd a half cup of the hot, starchy pasta water and stir until it is all smooth.

cherry tomatoesSlice the cherry tomatoes in half.

combine ingredientsWhen the pasta is finished cooking, drain it well and then return it to the warm pot (make sure the burner is turned off). Add the fresh baby spinach, the ricotta sauce, and sliced tomatoes. The residual heat will slightly wilt the spinach leaves.

stir to combineStir everything until combined, and then add the parmesan cheese and stir again. The reason I added the parmesan at the end is because I didn’t want it to melt from the heat. Once everything is combined, the temperature is considerably lower and you won’t have melted parmesan cheese clumping up and sticking to the spoon. It just evenly coats everything instead.

roasted garlic pasta saladTaste the pasta salad and add salt and pepper as needed. I like to add freshly cracked pepper to each serving.


  1. So yum! I am always looking foe mayo alternatives. Can’t get ricotta but will use Greek yogurt. Instead

  2. I love this recipe. Although I did make a couple of changes to it. I am a sucker for roasting garlic in the oven so I did that because I had the time. I also roasted my tomatoes in the oven as well. I think it makes them a little sweeter and it adds a different depth of flavor. I also cooked down some onion and red peppers in a pan with a bit of olive oil. When they were almost ready (still have a little crunch to them) I wilted spinach and half of May fresh basil. Very delicious :)

  3. Heaven! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wendy says:

    im on a diet can anybody tell me how many calories would be in one serving.and how big is the serving please help thanks

  5. Courtney says:

    This recipe looks delicious! I will definitely try it out.

    Just a question, for the leftovers, did you reheat it or serve it chilled? It seems like it would be delicious as a chilled pasta salad. Thanks :)

  6. Marisa says:

    So yummy… I went for oven roasted garlic, but will definitely try the microwaved version soon. Here are some other variations I tried, mostly due to suggestions I read from others who have commented:

    Definitely added extra seasonings, but I always do that :)
    Wilted the spinach with olive oil and garlic
    Added scallions
    Finished with pitted kalamata olives (yum!)
    I also tried adding chicken, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Ashley says:

    I’m eating this as we speak for lunch! Just made this and it is absolutely delicious! I 90% followed the instructions as written, but tweeked a few things after reading many of the reviews and seeing a LOT of the same “issues”. First off, I chickened out on the garlic-in-the-microwave technique, but mainly because I am pretty limited on garlic right now and didn’t wanna risk burning it. I minced the garlic head then put it in my toaster oven with some olive oil at 250° and kept an eye on it. Only had it in for about a minute. While waiting for my water to boil for the pasta, I decided to mix the spinach, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and the chicken broth that I substituted for the 1/2 cup of startch water the recipe calls for in a pan on the stove on low heat with some salt and pepper. As the noodles and mixture cooked, both for about 8 mins, I mixed the ricotta and parm in a large bowl, added a few blue cheese crumbles, and seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne, a little red pepper flakes, basil, and garlic powder. I then added the mixture and the noodles to the bowl, tossed, and voila! I taste tested and just tweeked to my taste buds with more of some of the seasons I previously listed along with a smidge more parm. Mine came out with a slight kick, as I had hoped since I am a spice fan. Far from bland as many reviewers are suggesting. Fast and easy… Will make again!

    • Ashley says:

      Almost forgot, I added some fresh scallions as well which I am very pleased I did to give it a little crunch now and then.

  8. Andrea says:

    Great recipe, I thought the combinations were great. I added some more spices past the salt and pepper to add more flavor, cayenne to add a kick. I also added some cooked chicken and avocado for added protein. Great recipe, thanks for sharing.

  9. Brad says:

    All I gotta say is. I haven’t even eaten it yet. You have to be the best recipe author I have ever read! I felt like I was reading fifty shades of grey for food. Do you have a cookbook?

  10. Kristy says:

    I agree with most that say it’s pretty plain, so I threw all sorts of concoctions in it (garlic salt, cayenne pepper, seasoned salt) I also threw in tuna that someone suggested. I like the little add of protein. I might make this again….

  11. Lisa says:

    I thought this was very flavorful, of course I don’t measure spices (just pour it in my hand and eyeball it) so there was plenty of salt and pepper. I also minced up fresh basil and added it with the spinach. Can’t wait to eat it as leftovers, I’m sure it will be even better!

  12. Karen says:

    this was so easy but I also found it as written a bit bland.. so I divided it up and experimented a bit… to one portion I added fresh basil.. that was a hit… to another portion I added chunks of blue cheese.. also a hit… to the third I added diced ham… was pretty good… to the forth I added tuna… it was a split decision on that one!
    All in all a good base recipe to work from… tweak it to your own tastes!

  13. Kirsten says:

    Made it for dinner tonight/lunch for tomorrow. It was extremely easy to make, yet I don’t think I’ll be making it again. It barely had any flavor. I tried pawning it off on everyone in the house, no one liked it.

  14. haley says:

    Well, I gave up when I did the first step and the garlic exploded and caught fire in the microwave.

  15. Jenn says:

    Just curious if anyone has tried greek yogurt instead of ricotta cheese. I’m wondering if the greek yogurt might add more flavor while still providing a creamy texture.

  16. aheather says:

    I made just made this and although it was super easy the flavors were very bland.I even roasted the garlic the tratraditional way. I ended up adding pesto to give it more flavor and it is way better.

  17. ohjennran says:

    Made this for dinner and it was great. We had leftovers, ate it hot and ate it cold. Great quick meal during the week. As with most things, it was more flavorful the next day. found the link on pinterest.

  18. Rosemary says:

    Made this today – it is delicious! My kids really liked it too (ages 8,6 &3). This is quick and easy; definitely a repeat.

  19. Laurie says:

    Made this today. So delicious! I love the slight crunch from the lightly wilted spinach! Makes a large amount so this would be perfect for a potluck!

  20. Shayla says:

    Made this last night and it was incredible. I roasted the garlic in my toaster oven and used rapini instead of spinach because it was on sale this week. Will definitely make this again!

  21. Kristen says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. Such a quick and simple weeknight meal. I added a splash of gremolata olive oil and a splash of tuscan herb olive oil along with some fresh basil and plenty of salt. Next time I will wilt the spinach in a little oil with some garlic in a pan and then add it to the pasta. But overall, this was fantastic.

  22. Out if curiosity, how much minced garlic do you get from a head of garlic? I use pre-minced from a jar.

  23. Anonymous says:

    We didn’t like this dish, and we are not picky eaters… I hated throwing out good food when there are starving people in Africa…

  24. Anonymous says:

    I found the taste to be very bland. I roasted the garlic in the oven. I’ll be adding some mrs dash and maybe some black beans and hoping it’ll be more edible and not go to waste. It was fun to make though and I’m looking forward to trying more recipes.

  25. Anonymous says:

    like others, I added olive oil (prob close to 1/4 cup) and more grated cheese (at least 1/2 cup total). also, I added some fresh chopped garlic because the roasted just wasn’t enough. I love the tip about roasting the garlic in the microwave..that works great! They make something very similar at my grocery store and this mimics it very closely.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Just made this for dinner. DELISH!!!!! It even got a thumbs up by my 4 littlest critics! I followed as it, except I used a whole wheat penne. I came across your blog on Pinterest and look forward to trying many more recipes. Thank you!

  27. OH NO! Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with it… My knife just goes right in and through. Maybe your knife needs to be sharpened? A lot of times if your knife isn’t sharp enough it won’t “grab” whatever your cutting and will slide off… causing bad injury :( They say that a dull knife is the most dangerous thing in a kitchen. I hope you’re okay!!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Is there a trick to cutting the top off of the head of garlic? It was pretty tough for me, the garlic kept sliding around and the knife did not want to cut through. I ended up in urgent care with a deep cut (I should have stopped while I was ahead!)

  29. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this awesome recipe! I made this for a company event and made extra for my family.

  30. I made this salad last night (tossing in some red onion and chopped green pepper) and it was Entirely Splendid. My husband adored it, and said that we need to make it often. Thanks for keeping this blog – there are so many fantastic recipes in here!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I made this and the ricotta cheese had ZERO flavor. I added other things to try and make it have some taste and it was awful. My daughter, who loves pasta didn’t even like it.

  32. Anonymous says:

    This was very easy and good. I used two heads of garlic — the first knocked the dish off its top after 40 secs and the second took a bit over a minute, but both were perfect. Also used some basil and next time will use more of it plus veggies. Ricotta did exactly what you said — nice creamy flavor but lighter than a real cream sauce. We’ll have this again, no question. Thank you! Great to have something different with pasta. (Found on Pinterest)

  33. Anonymous says:

    This meal was very easy and pretty good. Needed lots of pepper to season and put red pepper flakes on as well. Made it early in the week and looking forward to having the leftovers!

  34. Just made this recipe for lunch this afternoon! We absolutely loved it. We added a bunch of chick peas and about 2 tbs of lemon juice to the whole thing, and hubby added some cayenne pepper to his (spicy isn’t my thing!) I’m very happy with the results. I’ve divided the leftovers into mason jars for grab-and-go lunches for the rest of the week!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I just found this blog at nearly 12pm and can’t wait to get cooking over the weekend! I made something quite like this, but with kale instead of spinach that I boiled for about 4 minutes with the cooking pasta. I made a sauce out of ricotta and garlic, though I didn’t microwave it, and cherry tomatoes. It was really good and my family liked it! I love kale…=)

  36. I also oven roasted my garlic which if you have the time, I highly recommend. It’s super easy.

  37. It was bland, BUT, once you add some salt and other seasonings it’s pretty good. If anything people should treat this as a base recipe and add whatever they like. What works for one may not work for another, so experiment! :)

  38. Anonymous says:

    Delicious! Loved everything about it!!!

  39. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was very very bland. :(

  40. Made this tonight for dinner. A bit grainy (I used fat free ricotta) but I added in some extra pasta water and went with it– it really wasn’t an issue. I also used ravioli for the pasta– so good. Although next time I think I’ll do 2 heads of roasted garlic, but I’m an extreme garlic lover.

  41. Made this tonight and had a problem with it being grainy. I bought light ricotta so that could have been the problem. Oh well!

  42. I made this for dinner tonight and it was incredible! I added 8 oz of salad shrimps and increased the pasta water to 1 cup. Diffently a keeper recipe , Kat

  43. I made this for dinner tonight and it was incredible! I added 8 oz of salad shrimps and increased the pasta water to 1 cup. Diffently a keeper recipe , Kat

  44. Anonymous says:

    Great recipe. I halved the recipe and added in some shredded leftover roasted chicken and it turned out great.

  45. Anonymous says:

    This turned out amazing! I also didn’t have luck with the garlic… my fault (I let it go too long). But I substituted in dehydrated garlic flakes and it worked perfectly. I also seasoned (with pepper, garlic powder, and paprika) and grilled chicken strips to add to it. With adding the chicken, it was perfect to serve as a meal. Lots of leftovers to take for lunches this upcoming week. Overall, I give this recipe two thumbs up!

    This was my first recipe I’ve tried from your blog. I definitely will be coming back for more!!

  46. Anonymous says:

    This recipe was so easy. I did add some olive oil to the whole mixture because it was kind of dry. Also I added more parmesan cheese and only 12 oz of pasta. Thank you so much for posting this recipe.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t have much luck with the microwave approach and could see myself sautéing the garlic in the pan after I’ve drained the pasta, throwing the spinach in to wilt, then mixing in the ricotta and throwing the noodles back on top to stir everything in. But I’ve never had true oven roasted garlic so I don’t know if I’d be missing anything. All I know is I have the cutest, squirmiest, clingiest, squeezable baby who doesn’t let me cook with two hands, so I think that approach would simplify it for me.
    Because of garlic difficulties mine turned out bland, so I sprinkled cayenne on mine and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    I haven’t cooked anything in a month that doesn’t come from your blog. Seriously loving what you do. :)

  48. Anonymous says:

    i made this tonight and cleaned out my freezer/fridge in the process. i used the spinach but swapped out the cherry tomatoes for onions, green/red/yellow peppers since i had those on hand. I thought the recipe was good but it needed a kick so i added a lot of crushed red pepper. i’m new to your site, love it and have already made a couple of things – trying to save $ by using all the stuff i already bought that normally would expire and get thrown out!! thank you!!

  49. Anonymous says:


  50. Tried to veganize this last night using Whole Foods ricotta recipe, and it turned out pretty good. Not *amazing* like many of your recipes, but good. I can see where using real ricotta would probably have been delish. Roasting the garlic was CRAZY easy. What a nice trick to have up my sleeve! Husby was a little put off by the strength of the garlic, but I just read your comment about it mellowing the next day, so now we’re both eager to try it.

  51. I did a version of this over the weekend, substituting roasted carrots for the tomatoes. So good! Thanks for the idea, I linked this on my blog so others can find you. :)

  52. Yum! My fat free ricotta was super grainy so I threw it in the blender with the garlic and water and it came out super creamy! This pasta definitely tastes far more decadent than it is. Next time I think I’ll add black olives for an extra punch of flavor. :)

  53. Anonymous says:

    I made this tonight and I thought it was pretty yummy. I didn’t have a whole clove of garlic, but I roasted what I had, and I added a couple small cans of tuna and the juice of half a lemon (I think I’ll probably add more lemon next time). My mom and I both devoured it with enthusiasm, and there’s lots of leftovers which I’m looking forward to eating tomorrow. I think I’ll sprinkle some red pepper flakes on the leftovers. :)

  54. Catherine says:

    I thought that this recipe couldn’t go wrong. Cheese! Pasta! Garlic! Tomatoes! I love everything! Then I had it and it fell a little flat for me. I’ll finish it over the next few days, but I was left a little underwhelmed.

    That being said, everything else I’ve made from this website has been amazing. Keep up the great work. :)

  55. bwcetc says:

    I am going to try this as my son, who has an allergy to the egg in mayo, never gets an opportunity to eat creamy pasta salads! This looks like a good compromise.

    And for the record, your recipes have moved my family in a much more healthy direction. We’re eating more vegetables and beans and I have a 14 year old who now comes home and eats a “healthy” and hearty bean quesadilla instead of a bowl of cheetos and thinks he’s in heaven! Keep up the good work!

  56. spuffyduds says:

    Just showed this blog to my college-age son who’s starting to cook for himself more this summer…the directions and pictures are so wonderfully clear without being condescending, I think it will be perfect for him!

  57. Thanks, volock, for the support and excellent serving suggestion! ;D

  58. I just wanted to say while my personal tastes didn’t love this recipe (and my fiance absolutely adored it with all her heart), I absolutely love your blog and 99% of the recipes I’ve made from it! And that I think Like it or leave it is the right approach, no matter what cooking blog you go to, odds are that person and you don’t have the exact same taste.

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful recipes! Also I wanted to mention to the people not enjoying the recipe, try removing the ricotta and water, and instead tossing it with some italian salad dressing, and serving it cold.

  59. This is the type of food I make, folks. Like it or leave it :) There are plenty of specialized blogs out there, so I’m sure you can find something that fits your preferences.

  60. Anonymous says:

    you didnt factor in the parmesan or oil. Besides thats not the only thing its just extra dairy no one needs to be having too. She really needs to work on healthiness of the dishes. Some recipes like this raspberry crisp bar she made just made me want to fall on the floor with the quantity of fat she managed to stuff into it. Her recent apple flax muffins were a pretty good step forward from the usual though.

  61. Looks and sounds delicious!

  62. store-bought ricotta is indeed tricky! some are grainy and some just aren’t tasty. Because I lacked ricotta cheese for lasagna once, I actually had to look up a homemade ricotta cheese quickly and make that. The result was really delicious and so soft, something I can see fitting into this recipe PERFECTLY. I’m inclined to blame the bad outcomes on the ricotta cheese itself and I’d recommend making your own ricotta! It’s a lot more work but it could seriously be delish!

  63. I’m sorry to hear that it’s not turning out so well for some of you! I wonder if the grainy texture of your sauce is because of the brand of ricotta? I’ve noticed that some tend to be grainier than others. I used a generic ricotta that was pretty good, but I’ve had some brands that were definitely not so great.

    Making a single sized portion to test it out is a great idea! It would be very easy to boil a little pasta and mix up a small portion of the ricotta sauce first, just to see if this recipe is your style or not. I couldn’t get enough of it, but not every recipe is going to be well liked by everyone!

  64. Anonymous says:

    I tried this one too and unfortunately I found it to be pretty bad. The garlic roasting technique is good but there is a reason you never see pasta salad recipes that involve ricotta cheese. If you are going to make this, I suggest you make a smaller serving size so you don’t waste as much food product as I did if you don’t like the flavor

  65. Anonymous says:

    I love your blog and recipes, but this one did not work out so well for me. Followed the directions exactly, but the sauce was grainy (I don’t know why or how that happened) and the overall experience was underwhelming. Oh well, not every recipe can please everybody all the time, but I always look forward to your inspirations.

  66. Beth, I love your recipes so much! I’m about to make this one, right now, actually. I decided to sub roasted asparagus–they’re in season, in Michigan–for the spinach. I can’t wait :) Thanks for all the work you do on your blog!

  67. janmaus says:

    What a timesaver this idea is, and that delicious looking salad is going to be on my table SOON. I often roast a head of garlic when I’m doing something else in the oven: meat loaf, roast chicken, etc–roasted veggies take a head of their own in the pan, seperated into cloves and peeled, but it’s easy to put a whole head in (As you show it, with the top cut off, and drizzled with olive oil) and then stick it in the fridge until needed–and there’s always a need for roasted garlic.

  68. This looks unbelievably good! It reminds me of the caesar pasta salad at my new j.o.b. Mmmm, garlic.

  69. Made this tonight. It turned out perfect and is so so good. Thank you!

  70. I just made this for dinner at it was EXCELLENT. We used whole wheat shells, since that’s what they had on hand, and I expect to stay full for hours. Another excellent recipe!

  71. incredibly easy, delicious recipe! definitely a keeper. Awesome blog.

  72. Christa says:

    Oh my gosh, this looks delicious.

    Out of curiosity, I entered the recipe into a calorie calculator and it came to 195 calories per serving. Not that I care or usually double-check these things, but since it was questioned.

  73. Anonymous says:

    WOW,I can not wait to make this!

  74. Okay, now that looks amazing. You’ve got me dreaming of picnics with big containers of this pasta salad plus lots of fruit and a thermos of lemonade. :)

  75. Stephmwilkes – Your question comes at the perfect time… I just ate a huge bowl cold out of the fridge :D While it was still delicious, the garlic was not as strong as it was the first day and it was more mild overall. Warming it in the microwave may have brought some of the flavor back out. That being said, it was still very creamy and delicious!

  76. how is this the next day? obviously it’ll be great served warm after it’s made, but how is it next day from the fridge – cold, or reheated?

  77. I absolutely looove all your recipes, but this one….it just looks yummy!!


  78. YUMMMMMMMM…………

  79. Oh my god,I LOVE garlic! This sounds so good,I NEED to try it,soon!

  80. Yum! This looks so tasty and yummy!

  81. This salad really looks perfect for this time of year! I like it a lot!

  82. One cup of part-skim ricotta has less than 20 grams of fat and has 28 grams of protein. Considering that the recipe makes 8 servings, the fat/oil content is quite low.

  83. Anonymous says:

    watr you talking about, it isnt innocent at all, it is loaded with cheese and oil

  84. beautiful!

  85. Wow, this looks amazing and easy. Not sure it fits in the diet, but I may have to make an exception. :)

  86. Oh my goodness! This is going to be lunch tomorrow. I may even add some grilled chicken…

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